By Fr. Justin Fulton
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to travel to my hometown of Auburn, to meet with our wonderful CSS employees who run our community outreach there. We have talented and dedicated staff and I am very proud of them. They live the Gospel daily in their work.
I also had a chance to swing by the site of one of my favorite stores that I would stop at as a kid: Hummel’s Variety Store, which is now the site of a local bank. Hummel’s was one of those “five-and-dime” stores… a true piece of Americana, probably the type of place Norman Rockwell or Ted Kooser would dream about.
It had crafts, toys, clothes, knick-knacks, fabrics, and—to my childhood delight growing up in the 80s and 90s—racks and racks of candy. I remember fondly riding my bike back home from a summer day spent at the Auburn Pool and stopping on the way back home into Hummel’s. My bike had a baseball card in its spokes to mimic the sounds of a Harley and it could only be silenced by stopping at Hummel’s… where I would then spend a good 40 cents on sugared-infused treats like Fun Dip, Chick-O-Sticks, Lemonheads, bubble gum and basically anything a dentist would loathe. I remember walking out of there receiving a brown paper sack of sugared-goodness. I would smile and be so proud of my shopping purchases.
There is something beautiful about shopping for food that brings goodness to one’s soul. When one makes the effort getting the goods that will become nourishment there is pride. And when one chooses what they will eat there is a sense of ownership.
Our food pantries understand this human desire for food choice. Recently, some of our pantries have updated their models to reflect food choice. Previously, the hungry would call in and we would pick and bag their food, and then they would come in and be gone within a matter of minutes. Now, the food pantries are situated like stores with foods, toiletries, and cleaning products. A client comes in and is met by a warm greeting, a smiling volunteer, and a shopping cart. They shop for the food they want and need and the products they will use. The volunteer escorts them and they meet each other, engaging in good conversation that will lift both the volunteer’s and the client’s dignity. They come as strangers and grow as friends. And the client feels the warmth of human interaction and the pride of choosing what their family needs and will eat. It is Catholic evangelization in a very simple form.
Would you like to join us in lifting up one another’s spirits by volunteering in the food pantry? Or would you like to collect food to give to the hungry? If you feel called to evangelize by feeding the hungry, give us a call. We would be honored by your help in serving Jesus Christ in His poor and hungry.